The nature of David Brooks’ recent illness demanded he was eased back into action, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder had admitted, after using the youngster sparingly in recent weeks.
Brooks, aged 20, has yet to start a game since being diagnosed with glandular fever towards the end of last year but could be in line for a more prominent role when United visit Brentford on Friday.
Despite acknowledging Brooks “brings something really exciting to the table”, Wilder explained United’s coaching staff opted to limit his involvement after taking medical advice.
“In situations like this, it’s important to understand exactly what the condition is and how it can affect you,” he said. “David has done brilliantly but it (glandular fever) really does take it out of you and that’s why we’ve had to be careful.
“To begin with, he can start a game but we’d probably have to take him off after an hour or so. Or we can go the other way and bring him on for an impact. We always sit down beforehand and decide what’s best on a game-by-game basis.”
Brooks, a graduate of United’s Steelphalt Academy youth programme, opted to represent Wales at international level despite playing for England at last summer’s Toulon Tournament in France. He had been scheduled to travel to China with his adopted country last week but Ryan Giggs, who did select United midfielder Lee Evans, elected to let Brooks link-up with the under-21’s in Bosnia & Herzegovina to limit his travel time and aid the recovery process.
“The most important thing is making sure we get Brooksy back and firing on all cylinders as soon as possible,” Wilder said. “He’s a big player for us, an exciting player for us, and we’re delighted to see him back out there on the pitch again because we all know what he brings.”
“Brooksy is a special talent and he’s a little bit different,” Wilder added.
Midfielder Chris Basham recently revealed the steps United have taken to accelerate Brooks’ return to action after confirming the Warrington born forward had been barred from sharing water bottles with other members of Wilder’s squad. Those measures, designed to prevent other players contracting the illness, have enabled him to return earlier than expected and boost United’s push for the Championship play-offs. Two points behind sixth placed Middlesbrough with eight matches remaining, Wilder has also been encouraged by Kieron Freeman’s progress after dislocating a knee earlier this term.
“Getting these lads back is a big thing for us,” he admitted. “They’re good players coming back to compete with good players and that’s a nice situation to be in. David and Kieron are both front foot players and that’s how we like to approach things. I always think, when we’re looking to get on the front foot, we’re at our best.”